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Starting an online business: the basics 
A whitepaper by 

Start your own online business | 

Copyright © 2012 Peter McAllister 

This book is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 


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First Published, 2012 

This edition 1.0 

Start your own online business | 

Start your own online business 

Starting your own online business has never been easier. The cost of entry becomes less every year and now is a 
great time to start up. Unlike traditional industries the internet is still growing. More and more people are using 
the internet as their main source of shopping. On top of this the internet is definitely the most popular 
informational resource on the planet. 

This gives you a great opportunity to connect with people through selling goods online, providing a service or 
satisfying their informational needs. All of these can be profitable areas of online activity. 

It still takes work and the money does not come out of nowhere, but the opportunity is both massive and 
lucractive. Never before has there been a softer, easier to access market than the internet. It is virtually a barrier 
free market to enter and the start-up costs are negligible. This therefore means that anyone with the right 
ambition can make money online. All you need is the right content in front of the right people and the rest takes 
care of itself. 

This short guide will give you an overview as to how you can build your own online business. It will talk on a 
strategic level but also give specific indications and tips to help you on your way. 

This guide will cover: 

1) Starting an online business 

2) Getting traffic to your site 

3) Converting that traffic to sales. 

Start your own online business | 

Starting an online business 

E-commerce businesses 

Selling physical goods via the internet is known as ecommerce, it 
is actually very easy to do now as there are software packages 
that take care of the whole process. All you have to do is create 
product listings, tweak the site design and fulfil your orders. Of 
course you will also need traffic coming into your store (which we 
will talk about later on in this guide). But the core running of a 
fully functional independent online shop isn't actually that hard 
anymore. It's also really easy to find wholesale suppliers now who 
sell directly to people online. 

The software that allows you to run an e-commerce store is a 
content management system (or CMS for short). They come in 
various forms both free and paid. A lot of the time your web host 
will be able to install these for you free of charge. 

For starting up a zero-investment ecommerce store I would 
recommend ZenCart. It is open source (like firefox or the android 
platform) and has a great community following. This means that 
whenever you have a problem there will almost always be a 
helpful supporter available to give you a hand. It is relatively 
simple to customise and is very user friendly. 

There are also many paid platforms but I wouldn't want to plug any single one. If you look around you'll be able to 
find a lot of reviews and comparisons to help you choose the best ecommerce CMS for your business. 

Information / service businesses 

Providing a service or direct information to your users is a lot simpler than selling goods. 
The reason for this is there are often no physical items to be shipped to the customer. 
Therefore the web interface that you need is a lot simpler and the whole process is more 

To start your own informational or service based business I would strongly recommend 
Wordpress. This was originally designed as blogging software, but it has become a world 
renowned free website software solution. Wordpress can literally be installed and set up within a matter of 
minutes. All you need is the right content on the site to entice buyers into taking action you want them to. 

The good thing about running an online business that works on information is that they can literally be set up in 
minutes. This allows you to spread your reach wide and try your hand at a number of different niches. However 
this is not to say that they'll all be successful. Good business practices will still be a critical factor in whether your 
info sites are a success or a failure. The good news is it doesn't cost much to find out; only a little bit of your time. 

Starting an online business | 

Getting traffic to your site 

Outbound marketing 

Outbound marketing is the most traditional and established form of traffic generation. Not just for online 
businesses but for brick and mortar shops too. Outbound marketing involved directly promoting your business, 
products or services to customers. So this would be reaching out to potential customers via banner ads, PPC 
adverts (Google adwords), paid promotions, TV ads, Radio ads, fliers etc. 

Inbound marketing 

Inbound marketing is the practice of canvassing customers via indirect means. It basically involves making the 
customer aware of your business, products or services via a secondary medium. What this means in simple terms 
is grabbing their attention without directly selling to them. 

The internet is awash with opportunities for grabbing potential customer's attention via secondary channels. There 
is the biggest one is Google, then there's social media such as Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest , Youtube and Linkedln. 
In addition to these there is the option to blog, guest post on blogs, release white papers, conduct video tutorials, 
create infographics etc. 

Buyers like to feel like they have made an individual choice to come to your site. You can allow them to do this by 
building awareness or offering some form of free information to the visitor before they actually arrive on your site. 

It is all about empowering the user, giving them choice and making them come to your site. They should visit 
because they perceive positve value based on what you've already shown to them externally. 


Blogs ) Blagging 

Comment Marketing 

Research/ White Papers 

Social Networks 

Online Video 



(Find Your Audience Organically on the Web) 

Social Book mar king 


Document Sharing 

Word of Mouth 



Q+A Sites 


Getting traffic to your site 

Converting traffic into sales 

Once you have traffic flowing into your website you've already won half the battle. You've managed to persuade 
visitors that your site is worth visiting, now you need to persuade them that they should make a purchase. 

Whether you're selling goods, services or information one thing is constant: 

Use call to action 

Call to action is basically the action you want your user to take on a specific page. Once 
you have visitors to your site it should be clear what you want them to do. You must 
make it obvious what the page's intention for the user is. But also do this intelligently so 
that the user actually wants to take that action for themselves. 

The secret to getting users to take the action you want them to is to "funnel" them down 
to the final action you want them to take. As the user reads down/across the page they 
should become more and more compelled to take the action you want them to. 

Sell the benefits and not the features 

If you focus on the benefits that you can bring to the user you are a lot more likely to persuade them to buy. The 
features may be amazing, they may be important but if you're going to list them do it in a way that shows the 
benefits to your visitors. 

For example if you're selling low fat foods don't just tell the buyer your product has only 200 calories. 

Tell the buyer that your product has only 200 calories which is 40% less than your competitors products, it will fill 
them the same as other foods, people have lost x amount of pounds over a month by replacing one food with 

You need to spell out what benefits the features will bring to your customers. It may seem obvious to you, but 
describing these factors has a dramatic impact on your bottom line. 

Increase sales with incentives 

On certain items you may wish to actually raise your original price and then offer 
a time sensitive discount to incentivise your customers to buy. So for example if 
you wanted to offer a 10% discount on a £50 item, raise your RRP price to £60 
and offer a 20% discount to bring the price down to £45. This way you have 
increased the perceived value to the buyer and further incentivised them to 
purchase. Even though the final price is the same people prefer to get a 20% 
discount than a 10% discount. 

For further information and learning resources visit 

| Converting traffic into sales 


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